In this episode, we are changing it up a bit and getting reflective about the current state of education. We will share a couple of tweets, and share our thoughts about these current issues in education.
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This week, we are getting reflective and talking about the issues in education, as well as how educators are feeling right now. It has been a long haul, and while we have handled things fairly well so far, we are starting to feel the pressure, exhaustion and burnout that covid has forced upon education.
There are more and more posts on social media where educators are announcing that they are leaving education or seeking advice and ideas about what else they can do. And these posts include educators that we have seen as mentors; educators that encourage and motivate others to be better.
It is hard right now, so we get it completely. There are times when we are so happy, such as when we are in the classroom with our students or teachers. But then at times outside of these moments, we go through these phases where we question if we want to stay in education, etc.
These are normal thoughts – many educators go through it! It’s natural to wonder what else is out there. The pandemic has just exacerbated these feelings for many educators out there.
This week, we have identified a couple of posts that really spoke to us with respect to the issues in education right now.
Post 1: Ebony Thornton
Our first tweet is a thread by Ebony Thornton.
????: I have been struggling with how to frame what I am abt to say because I know the last thing anyone in K12 ed wants to hear right now is "advice" to navigate *gestures outwardly*, so feel free after this to mute/block/unfollow me in the name of protecting your peace. 1/— Ebony Thornton (she/ella/her/hers) (@EThorntonGHS) February 5, 2022
In this thread, she talks about how difficult it is in education, how many are looking to get out, etc. The part that really spoke to us, however, is when she says that we need to remove the pressure on ourselves to be awesome at all times, and that we need to learn how to be okay with getting through.
She also talks about how teachers were typically good students, and how we tend to put pressure on ourselves to excel and do all things well. This pressure during a pandemic, when we are all exhausted and burnt out is setting ourselves up for failure.
This is not a normal school year, so we need to let go of some of these impossibly high expectations, and give each ourselves permission to do what we can to survive.
We recently received some feedback from a listener, in which he made a statement that really stuck with us:
I feel we are in a business as usual approach this year, but with masks. What we were doing before pandemic times isn’t working this year, and our priorities are out of whack. Almost a customer service environment for education. Student and teacher stress is at an all-time high.Frank Ferraiuolo
While this was in response to Episode 76: More is Better, it still rings true as it really speaks to what education looks and feels like on the ground. This is truly the reality, and demonstrates on of the issues in education this year.
There is so much pressure on teachers to return to pre-pandemic and all of the wonderful, innovative things that were happening in our classrooms. However, with all of the shifting we have had to do, whether it be modified semesters, fully remote, hybrid teaching, absences due to covid, etc. it is really difficult to have the energy and/or head space in order to process and do all of that.
It is not business as usual
Every time there is a shift, it changes the approach that is needed in class – teaching online is not the same as in-person; teaching in modified semesters is not the same as traditional semesters – each model requires a different approach and different strategies.
With all that in mind, educators recognize the need to be flexible and to adapt to the situation. We have been trying so hard to do our best for our students, even if it is difficult. That being said, we need to see and accept that this has not been an easy year. Educators have had very little control over what is happening, and this can be quite challenging – it is so difficult to be able to know what’s coming and to plan during a pandemic.
To top it off, with the introduction of new variants of the virus, stress and anxiety are ramped up even further.
The Mercedes and the Corolla
Ebony also references a Mercedes and a Corolla in her thread. In normal times, we drive an amazing and fancy Mercedes; our classrooms are fun, engaging and innovative. However, sometimes, we need to be okay with the Corolla – we need to be okay with durable and getting us from point A to point B. In the same way, we need to accept that our teaching practice isn’t always going to be fun and flashy, but that at times it’s going to accomplish the teaching goal, but it may not look or sound the prettiest.
We all want to be the Mercedes, but it just isn’t realistic, especially during a pandemic.
There is more to life than our job
Another thing that has happened to us during the last couple of years is this realization that there is more to life than our careers. There are things that are more important and have more value than our jobs. Covid has really put that into perspective for us.
While we want to be good teachers, and be good at our job, we need to remember that we are also people, that we have a life outside of education, and that being a teacher doesn’t define who we are.
It is so easy to get lost in education; to completely sacrifice yourself and your time to the profession. It took Covid to realize how many hours we have missed with our families, and how much we have lost ourselves in our work. This pandemic forced us all to slow down, and to take the time to remember who we are, what we enjoy, and what is important.
It is so important to do things that bring you joy. It isn’t easy, but we need to be intentional about what we do, and we need to do things for ourselves. This way, we can form good habits that will benefit our lives overall.
Rachel has found a resource called “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. It is all about how to build good habits to improve your life. This idea of building habits means that you are committing to yourself and your wellbeing, a tiny shift at a time.
Meditation is a great way to deal with the uncertainty and to relieve stress. Even if it’s a commitment to three minutes a day, that is a great habit to form.
Education will never be the same
The other issues in education that stands out: education will never be what it was before Covid.
We have had to live through some challenging times in our teaching practice, and we have learned so much in the process. We have recognized what was working, what wasn’t, and what should or should not be a priority.
This year feels as if we are being pressured to return to the mold that existed prior to the pandemic, but it just isn’t sustainable. The pandemic has changed who we are as people and as teachers. As a result, our classrooms and schools will never return to how they were before – they will adapt and change just as we have.
Students have changed too
With the changes in education, it isn’t just the teachers and education staff that have changed. The students have also changed and recognize what works and doesn’t work for their learning.
Many students have realized that while they may be digital natives, they don’t really know how to effectively use technology for learning. As a result, some students this year have opted to complete tasks on paper, as they found it easier to follow and complete all of the required components for an assignment.
This discovery is quite fascinating, as it shows us that students are just as tired as their teachers of Google Meets, emails, docs, and technology in general. Eventually it will very likely swing back towards the centre, and it will end up being a combination of technology and analog (ie pen and paper) activities.
It also shows us that we need to explicitly teach students how to effectively and efficiently use their technology. They need to see how to leverage it productively because they haven’t had to learn these important skills.
Post 2: Nicholas Ferroni
Our next social media post is a tweet by Nicholas Ferroni, an educator in the USA.
It breaks my heart to say this, but I updated my resume for the first time in 18 years and I'm exploring my opportunities outside of teaching. I have thought about switching careers in the past, but never to this degree.— Nicholas Ferroni (@NicholasFerroni) January 15, 2022
I am not leaving yet, but I wonder how many can relate?
This one really resonated with us, as these are thoughts that do naturally come and go throughout one’s career, whether it be teaching, law, etc., but it feels more intense this year.
Part of this can be due to how educators are made to be villains in the public. It can be as simple as the language used by the government. For example, the term “absenteeism” was used to describe absences due to covid. However, the term “absenteeism” has a negative connotation that implies that educators are intentionally skipping out of work and that they do it often. This term is divisive and further politicizes and vilifies educators.
These little phrases or words add up, and create a very negative view of educators in the public. The phrases are then repeated by others, including school boards, which then normalizes the term.
Why does someone want to remain in a career when everyone in the public then treats them like they’ve done something wrong?!
Even the habitual references to “summers off” and so much time off, very little work time during the day, etc. has a negative effect on educators. It’s super frustrating that people don’t appreciate or care to hear about the work that is involved in being an effective educator. Instead, they focus on the “perks” of the job, and try to make teachers look lazy.
It has then been amplified during the pandemic with selective terms being used, and a lack of recognition by government for the hard work and flexibility of educators.
Here in Ontario, we have also had a tumultuous time with contract negotiations in the year leading up to the pandemic. It was because of the pandemic that a contract was agreed upon, however it was a tough year of constantly being belittled and insulted by the government and public.
This then led straight into the pandemic, which has been going on for two years now. To make things worse, Ontario teachers are up for contract negotiations again this fall!
This has a huge effect on anxiety and stress levels as we go through the rest of this year and start to think about the new school year.
Is the grass really greener?
One of the things that keeps us in education is the whole question of whether or not it really is better outside of public education? The politics, pressures, etc. will still exist outside of education, though the external pressures and opinions will be removed.
It would certainly be nice not to be vilified, though! We would really appreciate it if the public would take a step back and give educators the benefit of the doubt. We really do love what we do, and we have the best of intentions.
What keeps us going in education?
The students are the main reason for staying in the classroom, and in the education sector. They are what brings us the most joy and motivation to do our job to the best of our ability. The daily interactions, those a-ha moments, and really getting to know the students is what drives educators.
We don’t really have any answers on how to keep teachers in the classroom, or how to fix the issues in education that exist, but we wanted to take the time to talk about these things out loud, and to let you know that you aren’t alone!
Our biggest advice: Be the Corolla! Take care of yourself, and do what needs to be done, but don’t push yourself beyond what you are able to handle. It’s okay to focus on you and yourself.